A sitzprobe is a term used in opera and musical theater to describe a rehearsal where the singers first perform with the whole orchestra. The equivalent term at La Scala is "prova all'italiana." In Madrid, where Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown takes place, the translation might be "prueba español." Whatever you call this marshalling of talent, one of them took place yesterday in the lobby of the Vivian Beaumont Theater.
The last such LCT gathering, of a Broadway show, occurred in early 2008 for South Pacific. Both rehearsals were similar in their fundamentals: excited cast, excited musicians: everyone buoyed along by the enthusiasm for the enterprise. At the same time, South Pacific is a beloved, established part of the repertoire, and Women on the Verge is a wonderful show undergoing fine-tuning as it heads toward a world premiere.
That difference meant that the South Pacific sitzprobe felt primarily like a concert, with occasional attention paid toward tempos and singer comfort, and that the Women on the Verge event felt like a concert with a greater amount of necessary work attached. Music director Jim Abbott and composer/lyricist David Yazbek led the run-through, lavishing care on instrumentation (the rich arrangements are primarily by Simon Hale, who was in attendance), tempos, and tips for the singers.
Ira Weitzman, LCT's Associate Producer for Musical Theater, kicked off the prueba, saying "We welcome you back to our building" [the cast is rehearsing at the Belasco Theater twenty-one blocks south of LCT] "and to our fantastic orchestra. Today marks one of the few times we're all this close - it's one of the most exciting times before performances begin."
For his part, Bartlett Sher, the director of Women on the Verge, gave a shout-out to the music director, the composer, and the arranger. And then, as some LCT board members and virtually all of LCT's staff looked on, the music, played by a 16-piece band, began. I have never seen or heard the theater's lobby so lively.
Brendan Lemon is the American theater critic for the Financial Times and the editor of lemonwade.com